HotFreeBooks.com
The Life of Jesus of Nazareth
by Rush Rhees
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

188. With this the curtain falls on the public ministry of Jesus. The gospels suggest a day of quiet retirement following these controversies and warnings, with their fresh demonstration of the irreconcilable hostility of people of all classes to him and his work. After the seclusion of that day, he returned to give final proof of complete obedience to his Father's will.



VII

The Last Supper



189. On Thursday Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem for the last time. Knowing the temper of the leaders, and the danger of arrest at any time, Jesus was particularly eager to eat the Passover with his disciples (Luke xxii. 15), and he sent two of them—Luke names them as Peter and John—to prepare for the supper. In a way which would give no information to such a one as Judas, he directed them carefully how to find the house where a friend would provide them the upper room that was needed for an undisturbed meeting of the little band, and the two went on in advance to make ready. When the hour was come Jesus with the others went to the appointed place and sat down for the supper (Mark xiv. 17; Luke xxii. 14; Matt. xxvi. 20).

190. The gospels all report the last evening which the little company spent together. There is a perplexing divergence, however, between John and the others concerning the relation of this supper to the feast of the Passover. In their introduction of the story, Mark and his companion gospels indicate that the supper which Jesus ate was the Passover meal itself. John, on the other hand, declares that it was "before the feast of the Passover" (xiii. 1) that Jesus took this meal with his disciples. John's account is consistent throughout, for he states that on the next day the desire of the Jews to "eat the Passover" forbade them to enter the house of the governor lest they should incur defilement (xviii. 28). The other gospels, moreover, hint in several ways that the day of Jesus' death could not have been the day after the Passover; that is, the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. Dr. Sanday has recently enumerated these afresh, remarking that "the Synoptists make the Sanhedrin say beforehand that they will not arrest Jesus 'on the feast day,' and then actually arrest him on that day; that not only the guards, but one of the disciples (Mark xiv. 47), carries arms, which on the feast day was not allowed; that the trial was also held on the feast day, which would be unlawful; that the feast day would not be called simply Preparation (see Mark xv. 42, and compare John xix. 31); that the phrase 'coming from the field' (Mark xv. 21 [Greek]) means properly 'coming from work;' that Joseph of Arimathea is represented as buying a linen cloth (Mark xv. 46) and the women as preparing spices and ointments (Luke xxiii. 56), all of which would be contrary to law and custom" (HastBD ii. 634). In these particulars the first three gospels seem to confirm the representation of the fourth that the day of the last supper was earlier than the regular Jewish Passover. On the other hand, a strong argument, though one that has not commended itself to other specialists in Jewish archaeology, has been put forth by Dr. Edersheim (LJM ii. 567f.) to prove that John also indicates that the last supper was eaten at the time of the regular Passover. In the present condition of our knowledge certainty is impossible. If John does differ from the others, his testimony has the greatest weight. While not conclusive, it has some significance that Paul identified Christ with the sacrifice of the passover (I. Cor. v. 7), a statement which may indicate that he held that Jesus died about the time of the killing of the paschal lamb. If John be taken to prove that the last supper occurred a day before the regular Passover, Jesus must have felt that the anticipation was necessary in order to avoid the publicity and consequent danger of a celebration at the same time with all the rest of the city.

191. Whatever the conclusion concerning the date of the last supper, and consequently of the crucifixion, the last meal of Jesus with his disciples was for that little company the equivalent of the Passover supper. Luke states that the desire of Jesus had looked specially to eating this feast with his disciples (xxii. 15). The reason must be found in his certainty of the very near end, and in his wish to make the meal a preparation for the bitter experiences which were overhanging him and them.

192. It is customary to connect as occasion and consequence the dispute concerning precedence which Luke reports (xxii. 24-30), and the rebuke which Jesus administered by washing the disciples' feet (John xiii. 1-20). The jealousies of the disciples may have arisen over the allotment of seats at the table, as Dr. Edersheim has most fully shown (LJM ii. 492-503); such a controversy would be the natural sequel of earlier disputes concerning greatness, and particularly of the request of James and John for the best places in the coming kingdom (Mark x. 35-45), and would lead as naturally to the distress of heart with which Jesus declared that one of the disciples should betray him, and that another of them should deny him. The narrative in Mark favors the withdrawal of Judas before the new rite was appointed. This must seem to be the probability in the case, for the presence of Judas would be most incongruous at such a memorial service. John's mention of his departure before the announcement of Peter's approaching fall confirms this interpretation of Mark (Mark xiv. 18-21; John xiii. 21-30).

193. The paschal memories furnished to Jesus an opportunity to establish for his disciples an institution which should symbolize the new covenant which he was soon to seal with his blood. Jesus regarded this new covenant as that which was promised by the prophets, especially Jeremiah (xxxi. 31-34), and his thought, like that of the prophets, goes back to the story of the covenant established at Sinai (Ex. xxiv. 1-11). In this way he gave to his disciples a conception of his death, which later, if not immediately, would help them to regard it as a necessary part of his work as Messiah. They were now oppressed by the evident certainty that the near future would bring their Master to death; he accordingly gave them a sacred reminder of himself and of his death as an essential part of his self-giving "for them;" for whatever the conclusion concerning the disputed text of Luke (xxii. 19), the institutional character of the act and words of Jesus is clear. As Holtzmann remarks (NtTh i. 304): "The words 'this do in remembrance of me' were perhaps not spoken; all the more certainly do they of themselves express what lay in the situation and made itself felt with incontestable conclusiveness."

194. Several hints in the records seem to connect the meal in various details with what is known of ancient custom in the celebration of the Passover. The hymn with which according to Mark and Matthew the supper closed is easily identified with the last part (Psalms cxv. to cxviii.) of the so called Hallel, which was sung at the close of the Passover meal. The mention of two cups in the familiar text of Luke (xxii. 17-20) agrees with the repeated cups of the Passover ritual; so also do the sop and the dipping of it with which Jesus indicated to John who the traitor was (John xiii. 23-26; Mark xiv. 20). If it could be proved that the customs recorded in the Talmud correctly represent the usage in Jesus' time it would be of extreme interest to seek to connect what is told us of the last supper with that Passover ritual as Dr. Edersheim has done (LJM ii. 490-512). The antiquity of the rabbinic record is so uncertain, however, that it is only useful as showing what possibly may have been the case. All that can be asserted is that the rabbinic ritual probably originated long before it was recorded, and that as the last supper was a meal which Jesus and his disciples celebrated as a Passover, it is probable that some such ritual was more or less closely followed.

195. Luke and John give the fullest reports of what was said at the table. All the gospels tell of Peter's declaration of superior loyalty and the prediction of his threefold denial; Luke, however, adds that in connection with it Jesus assured Peter of his restoration, and charged him to strengthen his brethren (Luke xxii. 31-34). John alone gives the long and full discourse of admonition and comfort, followed by Jesus' prayer for his disciples (xiii. 31 to xvii. 26). It is evident from the words of Jesus as he entered the garden of Gethsemane (Mark xiv. 33, 34), as from those which had escaped him when the Greeks sought him the last day in the temple (John xii. 27), that his own heart was greatly troubled during the supper by the apparent defeat which was now close at hand. His quietness and self-possession during the supper, particularly when tenderly reproving his disciples for petty ambition, or when solemnly dismissing the traitor, or warning Peter of his denials, must not blind us to the depth of the emotion which was stirring his own soul. It is only as we remember his trouble of heart that it is possible justly to value the ministry which in varied ways he rendered to his disciples that night. In the discourses reported by John he showed that he realized that the approaching separation would sorely try the faith of his followers, and he sought to strengthen them by showing his own calmness in view of it, and by promising them another who should abide with them spiritually as his representative, and continue for them the work which he had begun. He therefore urged them to maintain their devotion to him, still to seek and find the source of their life and secret of their strength in fellowship with him—present, though unseen among them. He sought to convince them that his departure was to be for their advantage, that fellowship with him spiritually would be far more real and efficacious than the intercourse they had already enjoyed. He whose own heart was "exceeding sorrowful even unto death" bade his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled nor afraid. How long the conversation continued, of when the company left the upper chamber, cannot be told. At some time before the arrival at Gethsemane Jesus turned to God in prayer for the disciples whom he was about to leave to the severe trial of their faith, asking for them that realization of eternal life which he had enjoyed and exemplified in his own intimate life with his Father. With this his ministry to them closed for the time, and, crossing the Kidron, he entered the garden of Gethsemane weighed down by the sorrow of his own soul.



VIII

The Shadow of Death



196. Of the garden of Gethsemane it is only known that it was across the Kidron, on the slope of the Mount of Olives. Tradition has long pointed to an enclosure some fifty yards beyond the bridge that crosses the ravine on the road leading eastward from St. Stephen's gate. Most students feel that this is too near the city and the highway for the place of retreat chosen by Jesus. Archaeologically and sentimentally the identification of places connected with the life of Jesus is of great interest. Practically, however, it is easy to over-emphasize the importance of such an identification. Granted the fact that in some olive grove on the mountain-side, where an oil-press gave a name to the place (Gethsemane), Jesus withdrew with his disciples on that last night, and all that is important is known. It is of far higher importance to see rightly the relation of what took place in that garden to the things which preceded and followed it in the life of Jesus. At that time Jesus saw pressed to his lips the "cup" from the bitterness of which his whole soul shrank. It was not an unlooked-for trial; some time earlier he had sought to cool the ardor of the ambition of James and John by telling them that they should drink of his cup, and declared that even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. The fourth gospel, whose representation omits the agony of Gethsemane and only reports its victory, tells how Jesus rebuked the violent impulse of Peter with the word, "The cup which my Father hath given me to drink shall I not drink it?" (John xviii. 11^b); and all the gospels exhibit the marvellous quietness of spirit and dignity of self-surrender which characterized Jesus throughout his trial and execution. In Gethsemane, however, we see the struggle in which that calmness and self-mastery were won.

197. It is unbecoming to consider that scene with any vulgar curiosity to know what it was that made Jesus so draw back from the drinking of his "cup." It is not unfitting, however, to recognize that in his cry, "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; remove this cup from me" (Mark xiv. 36), an intense longing of his own soul's life had expression. There was something in the fate which he saw before him from which his whole being shrank. But stronger than this was his fixed desire to do his Father's will. Here was supremely illustrated the truth that "he came down from heaven, not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him" (John vi. 38). The fullest allowance for the shrinking of the most delicately constituted nature from pain and death completely fails to account for this dread of Jesus. He was no coward, drawing back from sufferings which for simple physical pain were over and again more than matched by many of the martyrs to truth who preceded and followed him. He himself declared to the sons of Zebedee that they should share a cup in kind like unto his, suffering for the kingdom of God, for the salvation of the world. Yet there is a difference evident between what others have had to bear and the cup from which Jesus shrank. The death which now stood before him in the path of obedience had in it a bitterness quite unexplained by the pain and disappointment it entailed. That excess of bitterness can probably never be understood by us. A hint of its nature may be found in the "shame of the cross" which the author of Hebrews (xii. 2; xiii. 13) emphasizes, and in the "curse" of the cross which made it a stumbling block to Paul and his Jewish brethren (Gal. iii. 13; I. Cor. i. 23). Jesus came from the garden ready to endure the cross in obedience to his Father's will; but it was a costly obedience, a complete emptying of himself (Phil. ii. 7, 8).

198. The loneliness of Jesus in his struggle is emphasized in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. In search of sympathy he had confessed to the disciples his trouble of heart, and had taken his three intimates with him when he withdrew from the others for prayer, asking them to watch with him. They were too heavy of heart and weary of body to stand by in his bitter hour, and instead of being in readiness to warn him of the approach of the hostile band, he had to awake them to their danger. The fourth gospel reports that after the struggle Jesus bore marks of majesty which astonished and overawed his foes when he calmly told them that he was the one they were seeking. Their fear was overcome, however, when Judas gave the appointed sign by kissing his Master (Mark xiv. 45). The thought for the disciples' safety which John records (xviii. 8) is another proof that the fight had been won, and Jesus had fully resumed the self-emptying ministry appointed to him by his Father.

199. The band that arrested Jesus was accompanied by a Roman cohort from the garrison of the city, but it was not needed, for the disciples offered no appreciable resistance; on the contrary, "they all forsook him and fled" (Mark xiv. 50). Having arrested Jesus, the band took him to Annas, the actual leader of Jewish affairs, though not at the time the official high-priest. He had held that office some time before, but had been deposed by the Roman governor of Syria after being in power for nine years. His influence continued, however, for although he was never reinstated, he seems to have been able to secure the appointment for members of his own family during a period of many years. Caiaphas, the legal high-priest, was his son-in-law. Annas, as the leader of aristocratic opinion in Jerusalem, had doubtless been foremost in the secret counsels which led to the decision to get rid of Jesus, hence the captive was, as a matter of course, taken first to his house. The trial by the Jewish authorities was irregular. There seems to have been an informal examination of Jesus and various witnesses, first before Annas, and then before Caiaphas and a group of members of the sanhedrin, the outcome of which was complete failure to secure evidence against Jesus from their false witnesses, and the formulation of a charge of blasphemy in consequence of his answer to the high-priest acknowledging himself to be the Messiah (Mark xiv. 61-64). The early hours before the day were given over to mockery and ill-usage of the captive Jesus. When morning was come, the sanhedrin was convened, and he was condemned to death on the charge of blasphemy (Mark xv. 1; Luke xxii. 66-71), and then was led in bonds to the Roman governor for execution, since the Romans had taken from the sanhedrin the authority to execute a death sentence (John xviii. 31). Before Pilate the Jews had to name an offence recognized by Roman law; his accusers therefore falsified his claim and made him out a political Messiah, hostile to Roman rule (Luke xxiii. 1, 2). Pilate soon saw that the charge was trumped up, and sought in every way, while keeping the good-will of the people, to escape the responsibility of giving sentence against Jesus. His first effort was a simple declaration that he found no fault in the prisoner (Luke xxiii. 4); then, having heard that he was a Galilean, he tried to transfer the case to Herod, who happened to be in the city at the time (Luke xxiii. 5-12); he then sought to compromise by agreeing to chastise Jesus and then release him (Luke xxiii. 13-16); next he offered the people their choice between the innocent Jesus and Barabbas, a convicted insurrectionist (Mark xv. 6-15; Luke xxiii. 16-24), and the people, instructed by the priests, chose Barabbas, caring nothing for a Messiah who would allow himself to be arrested without resistance; the fourth gospel tells of Pilate's still further effort, by appealing to the people's sympathy, to escape giving sentence, even after he had delivered Jesus to the soldiers for the preliminary scourging. Finding the Jews ready to urge, at length, a religious charge, Pilate's superstitious fear was roused (John xix. 7-12), and he sought again to release him, but was finally cowed by the threat of an accusation against him at Rome, and, mocking the people by sitting in judgment to condemn Jesus as their king, he gave sentence against the man whom he knew to be innocent (John xix. 12-16).

200. Some of Jesus' disciples and friends were witnesses of the early stages of the informal trial, in particular, John (John xviii. 15) and Peter. It was during the progress of the early examination that Peter was drawn into his denials by the comments made by the bystanders on his connection with the accused. It has been suggested that the house of the high-priest where Jesus was tried was built, like other Oriental houses, about a court so that the room where Jesus was examined was open to view from the court. In this case it is easy to see how Jesus could overhear his disciple's strenuous denials of any acquaintance with him, and could turn and give him that look which sent him out to weep bitterly (Luke xxii. 61, 62). If it be further assumed that Annas and Caiaphas occupied different sides of the same high-priestly palace, the double examination reported by John would still be within hearing from the one court in which the faithless disciple was a fascinated witness of his Master's trial.

201. Humanly speaking, it may be said that the fate of Jesus was sealed when the Sadducean leaders came to look on him seriously as a danger to the State (John xi. 47-50, note the mention of chief priests). The religious opposition was serious, and might have brought trouble, in some such way as it seems to have done to John the Baptist (see Matt. xvii. 10-13; Luke xiii. 31, 32); but it is doubtful whether the governor would have given much attention to a charge not urged by the men of influence in Jerusalem. The notable thing in connection with the last days of Jesus' life is the joint opposition of Sadducean priests and Pharisaic scribes. That the populace easily changed their cry from "hosanna" to "crucify him" is not surprising. Their hosannas were due to a complete misconception of Jesus' aim and purpose; disappointed in him, they would be the earliest to cry out against him, especially when the choice lay between him and a genuine insurrectionist.

202. Each fresh study of the trial of Jesus gives a fresh impression of his greatness. He who but a few hours before was pouring out his soul in prayer that his cup might pass, stands forth as the one calm and undisturbed actor among all those who took part in the tragic doings of that day. His judges and foes were all swayed by passion and self-interest and were ready to make travesty of justice, from the leaders of the sanhedrin who condemned him on one charge and accused him to the governor on another, to the governor himself, who appeared determined to release him if he could do it without risk of personal popularity, and who yet, in order to avoid accusation at Rome, gave sentence according to the people's will. The fickle populace crying "crucify him," the disciples who forsook him, the rock-apostle who denied even so much as knowledge of the man, show how all the currents of life about him were stirred and full of tumult. In all this, of which he was the occasion and centre, he stands the supreme example of dignity, self-mastery, and quietness. This is seen in his silence in the presence of Annas and Caiaphas, and later before Pilate; in his frank avowal of his Messianic claim in reply to the high-priest's challenge, and of his kingly rank in answer to the governor's question; and in the look of reproof which he turned upon Peter. Not that he was without feeling. There is strong sense of outrage in his words, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, but if well, why smitest thou me?" It was not the quietness of stoic indifference, but of perfect self-devotion to the Father's will. He maintained it from the time of his arrest to the last cry of trust with which he committed his spirit to his Father.

203. The scourging over, the mock homage of the soldiers done, he was led out beyond the city wall to be crucified. The exact place of the crucifixion can be determined as little as that of Gethsemane, though there is a tradition from the fourth century, and in addition there are many conjectures. Jesus was led, apparently, to the ordinary place of criminal execution, and with two others, probably insurrectionary robbers like those with whom Barabbas had been associated, he was crucified. Two episodes in the journey to the place of crucifixion are recorded,—the help which Simon of Cyrene was compelled to give to Jesus in carrying his cross (Mark xv. 21), and the word of Jesus to those who, following him, bewailed his fate (Luke xxiii. 27-31).

204. Of the cruelty and torture of crucifixion much has been written and often. It would be difficult to exaggerate it. The death by the cross was a death by hunger and exhaustion in ordinary cases; it was thus torture prolonged for many hours. It is noticeable, however, that it is not the suffering but the disgrace and shame of the cross that occupied the thought of the apostolic days. Indeed, were physical suffering chiefly to be considered, it would have to be owned that the fact that Jesus died within a few hours released him from the most excruciating pains incident to this barbarous form of execution. The later ascetic thought loved, and still loves, to dwell on the physical torments of the Lord's death. They were severe enough to give us awe; but the biblical writers show a much healthier mind, and their thought does not invite comparison between the pains endured by the Master and those which some of his martyred followers bore with great fortitude. The disgrace of the cross was the uttermost; for the Romans it was the death of a slave, for the Jews it was patent proof of the curse of God (Deut. xxi. 23). The obedience of Jesus was unlimited when he submitted to death (Phil. ii. 8). It is on the shame of the cross, and on the sacrifice of himself for the life of the world when in obedience to his Father's will he "despised the shame," that the thought of the apostolic day laid emphasis. In this experience Jesus found himself in truth numbered with the transgressors; he was the object of scorn for all them that passed by, they mocked at him, at his works, and at his confident trust in God. In this last extremity the darkness of Gethsemane again swept over Jesus' soul, when he cried out "My God, my God," recalling the words of one of the saints of old in his hour of distress (Ps. xxii.). Yet, like him, Jesus kept hold on the certainty of deliverance; the darkness passed at length.

205. The evangelists preserve several sayings of Jesus from the cross, the records of the different gospels being remarkably diverse. Mark and Matthew record the exclamation, "My God, my God (Eloi, Eloi), why hast thou forsaken me," which the bystander misconstrued as a call for Elijah, thinking this pseudo-Messiah was reproaching Elijah for failing to come to his help. The same gospels tell of the loud cry with which Jesus died. Luke omits the call Eloi, and gives in place of the last expiring cry the prayer of trust, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (xxiii. 46). Earlier, however, this gospel tells of Jesus' word to the penitent robber, "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (xxiii. 43), and of the prayer for his foes, that is, for the Jewish people who blindly condemned him (xxiii. 34). The oldest manuscripts cause some doubt whether this last saying was originally a part of the Gospel of Luke. If it was not it would belong in the same class with the story of the sinful woman which we now find in John, both being authentic records of the life of Jesus, though from some other source than that in which we now find them. The fourth gospel gives quite an independent group of sayings. It interprets the dying cry as, "It is finished" (xix. 30), and preceding this it gives the cry, "I thirst" (xix. 28), which led to the offering of the vinegar of which the first two gospels speak. Earlier it tells of the committal of Mary to the care of the beloved disciple (xix. 26, 27). Of these seven sayings, "Eloi," "I thirst," "Father, into thy hand I commend my spirit," and "It is finished" belong to the last hours of the life of the crucified one, after the darkness of which the first three gospels speak had overshadowed the land. Of the cause of that darkness they give no hint, for Luke's expression cannot mean an eclipse, since an eclipse at Passover time, that is, at full moon, is an impossibility. The conjecture that dense clouds hid the sun is common, and is as suitable as any other. Whatever the cause, the evangelists saw in it a token of nature's awe at the death of the Son of God. During the hours of the darkness the waves swept over his soul, as the cry "my God" shows to our reverent thought. But the last word of trust proves that the dying Jesus was not forsaken, and that Calvary, like Gethsemane, was a battle won. The earlier sayings all express Jesus' continued spirit of ministry, showing even in his bitter pain his accustomed thoughtfulness for others' need.

206. It is futile to speculate on the cause of Jesus' early death. He certainly suffered a much shorter time than was ordinarily the case, as appears in the fact that at sunset it was necessary to break the legs of the robbers so as to hasten death, Jesus having already been some time dead. There is something attractive in the theory of Dr. Stroud (The Physical Cause of Christ's Death) that Jesus died of rupture of the heart. It may have been true, but the evidences on which he based his argument are insufficient for proof. To the Jews the death of their victim did not give all the satisfaction they desired. In the first place, Pilate insisted on mocking them by posting over the head of Jesus the placard, "The King of the Jews" (see John xix. 19-22); moreover, their haste had brought the crime into close proximity to the feast which they were eager to keep from defilement; so that they had still to beg of Pilate that he would hasten the death of the victims, that their bodies might not remain to desecrate the following Sabbath sanctity (John xix. 31-37); while for those who witnessed it the death of Jesus deepened the impression that a hideous crime had been committed in the slaughter of an innocent man (Mark xv. 39).

207. Among the bystanders few of the disciples of Jesus were to be found—they were hiding in fear. Yet some faithful women, and two courageous councillors of Jerusalem, were bold enough to make their loyalty known. These two men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, were members of the sanhedrin, but they had had no part in the condemnation of Jesus; and after knowing that he was dead, Joseph begged of Pilate the body, and he and Nicodemus took Jesus down from the cross and laid him in a tomb which Joseph owned near the place of crucifixion, rendering such tender ministries as were possible in the closing hours of the day. The women who had witnessed his end meanwhile were arranging also to anoint the body. They took notice where the two friends had laid him, and then went away to rest on the Sabbath day, according to the commandment.

208. To the Jews it was a high day, the first Sabbath in the eight days of their holy feast (John xix. 31). They had eagerly guarded their conduct that no ceremonial defilement might prevent their sharing in the paschal feast. They believed that they had rid their nation of a dangerous disturber of its peace, and men whose conscience shrank not from making God's house a house of merchandise, who would punish one who ventured to cure a mortal disease if it chanced to cross their Sabbath traditions, who had condemned to death the holiest man and godliest teacher the world had ever seen because he did not square with their heartless formalism,—such men hardly had conscience enough to feel repentance or remorse for the cowardly injustice and crime with which of their own choice they had reddened their hands (Matt, xxvii. 25). They doubtless kept their feast with satisfaction. Not a few hearts, however, were heavy with grief and disappointed hope. They had believed that Jesus "was he that should redeem Israel" (Luke xxiv. 21). Stunned, they could not throw away the faith which he had kindled in their hearts. Yet he was dead, and only faintly, if at all, did they recall his prediction of suffering and his certainty of triumph through it all (John xx. 9). What remained for them was the last tender ministry to their dead Lord.

Outline of Events after the Resurrection

The day of the resurrection—Sunday. The visit of the women to the tomb—Matt. xxviii. 1-8; Mark xvi. 1-8; Luke xxiv. 1-12; John xx. 1-10.

Jesus' first appearance; to Mary—Matt. xxviii. 9 10; [Mark xvi. 9-11]; John xx. 11-18.

The report of the watch—Matt. xxviii. 11-15.

The appearance to Simon Peter—I. Cor. xv. 5.

The walk to Emmaus—[Mark xvi 12,13]; Luke xxiv. 13-35.

The appearance to the ten in the evening—[Mark xvi. 14]; Luke xxiv. 36-43; John xx. 19-25; I. Cor. xv. 5.

One week later—Sunday. The appearance to the eleven, with Thomas—John xx. 26-29.

Later appearances. To seven disciples by the sea of Galilee—John xxi. 1-24.

To a company of disciples in. Galilee—Matt, xxviii. 16-20; [Mark xvi. 15-18]; I. Cor. xv. 6.

The appearance to James—I. Cor. xv. 7.

To the disciples in Jerusalem, followed by the ascension—Mark xvi. 19, 20; Luke xxiv. 44-53; Acts i. 1-12; I. Cor. xv. 7.



IX

The Resurrection



209. Christianity as a historic religious movement starts from the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is very clear in the preaching and writings of Paul. The first distinctively Christian feature in his address at Athens is his statement that God had designated Jesus to be the judge of men by having "raised him from the dead" (Acts xvii. 31), and for him the resurrection was the demonstration of the divinity of Christ (Rom. i. 4), and the confirmation of the Christian hope (I. Cor. xv.). With him the prime qualification for an apostle was that he should have seen the risen Lord (I. Cor. ix. 1). The early preaching as recorded in Acts shows the same feature, for after repeated testimony to the fact that God had raised up Jesus, Peter summed up his address with the declaration, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Acts ii. 36). In fact the buoyancy of hope and confidence of faith which gave to the despised followers of the Nazarene their strength resulted directly from the experiences of the days which followed the deep gloom that settled over the disciples when Jesus died.

210. It can but seem strange to us that after Jesus had so often foretold his death and the resurrection which should follow it, his disciples were thrown into despair by the cross. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus when they embalmed his body may not have known of these teachings which Jesus gave to the nearer circle of his followers, but it is difficult to believe that the women who prepared their spices to anoint his body (Mark xvi. 1) had heard nothing of these predictions, and it is certain that the apostles who received with incredulity the first news of the resurrection were the men whom Jesus had sought to prepare for this glorious victory. The disciples do not seem to have finished "questioning among themselves what the rising again from the dead should mean" (Mark ix. 10, compare Luke xviii. 34) until Jesus himself explained it by his return to them after his crucifixion. It was formerly common to conclude from the scepticism of the disciples that Jesus could not have told them, as he is reported to have done, that he would rise again the third day. It is now widely conceded, however, that if he foresaw and foretold his death, he surely coupled with it a promise of resurrection, otherwise he must have surrendered his own conviction that he was Messiah; for a Messiah taken and held captive by death was apparently as foreign to Jesus' thought as it was unthinkable for the men of his generation. The inability of the disciples to adjust their Messianic ideas to the death of their Master was not removed by the rebuke Jesus administered to Peter at Caesarea Philippi; their objections were only silenced. It would seem that even when they saw his death to be inevitable, they were simply dumb with hope that in some way he would come off victor; the cross and the tomb crushed out that hope—at least from most of them. If one disciple, his closest friend, recalled and believed his words when he saw the empty tomb (John xx. 8), others were cast into still deeper sorrow by the report, and could only say, "But we hoped that it was he which should redeem Israel" (Luke xxiv. 21).

211. The light which banished the gloom from the hearts of Jesus' followers dawned suddenly. There was no time for gradual readjustment of ideas and the springing of hope from a faith which would not die. The uniform early tradition is that Jesus showed himself alive to his disciples "on the third day," that is, a little over thirty-six hours from the time of his death. Not only the gospels, but Paul, who wrote many years before our evangelists, testify to this (I. Cor. xv. 4), as does the very early observance of the first day of the week as "the Lord's day," and the substitution of "the third day" for "after three days" in the gospels which made use of our Gospel of Mark (compare parallels with Mark viii. 81; ix. 31; x. 34, and see Holtzmann, NtTh I. 309). Of the events which occurred on that third day and after, our earliest account is that of Paul. He gives a simple catalogue of the appearances of the risen Lord, referring to them as well known, in fact as the familiar subject matter of his earliest teaching (I. Cor. xv. 4-8). He gives definite date to none of these appearances, indicating only their sequence. He tells of six different manifestations, beginning with an appearance to Cephas on the third day, then to the twelve, then to a large company of disciples,—above five hundred,—then to James, then to all the apostles. The sixth in the list is his own experience, which he puts in the same class with the appearances of the first Easter morning. Two of these instances are found only in Paul's account, the appearance to James and to the five hundred brethren, though this last may probably be the same as is referred to in the Gospel of Matthew (xxviii. 16-20).

212. The gospel records are much fuller, but they differ from each other even more than they do from Paul. Mark is unhappily incomplete, for the last twelve verses in that gospel, as we have it, are lacking in the oldest manuscripts, and were probably written by a second-century Christian named Aristion, as a substitute for the proper end of the gospel which seems by some accident to have been lost. These twelve verses are clearly compiled from our other gospels. They have value as indicating the currency of the complete tradition in the early second century, but they contribute nothing to our knowledge of the resurrection. All, then, that Mark tells is that the women who came early on the first day of the week to anoint the body of Jesus found the tomb open and empty, and saw an angel who bade them tell the disciples that the Lord had risen. How the record originally continued no one knows, for Matthew and Luke use the same general testimony up to the point where Mark breaks off, and then go quite different ways. Of the two Matthew is closer to Mark than is Luke. The first gospel adds to the record of the second an account of an appearance of Jesus to the women as they went to report to the disciples, and then tells of the meeting of Jesus with the disciples on a mountain in Galilee, and his parting commission to them. It gives no account of the ascension. Luke agrees with Mark in general concerning the visit of the women to the tomb, the angelic vision, and the report to the disciples. He says nothing of an appearance of Jesus to the women on their flight from the tomb, but, if xxiv. 12 is genuine (see R.V. margin), he, like John, tells of Peter's visit to the sepulchre.

213. Luke further reports the appearances of Jesus to two on their way to Emmaus, to Simon, and to the eleven in Jerusalem,—this last being blended consciously or unconsciously with the final meeting of Jesus with the disciples before his ascension. The genuine text of the gospel (xxiv. 50) says nothing of the ascension itself, but clearly implies it. In contrast with Matthew it is noticeable that Luke shows no knowledge of any appearance of Jesus to his disciples in Galilee. John is quite independent of Mark, as well as of Matthew and Luke. He mentions only Mary Magdalene in connection with the early visit to the tomb, though perhaps he implies the presence of others with her ("we" in xx. 2). He tells of a visit of Peter and John to the tomb, of an appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, of an appearance to ten of the disciples in the evening, and a week later to the eleven, including Thomas. So far this gospel makes no reference to appearances in Galilee; but in the appendix (chapter xxi.) there is added a manifestation to seven disciples as they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

214. Criticism which seeks to discredit the gospels, for instance most recently Reville in his "Jesus de Nazareth," discovers two separate and mutually exclusive lines of tradition,—one telling of appearances in Galilee, represented by Mark and the last chapter in John, the other telling of appearances in or near Jerusalem, and found in Luke and the twentieth chapter of John. It is said that the gospels have sought to blend the two cycles, as when Matthew tells of an appearance to the women in Jerusalem on their way from the tomb, and when the last chapter of John adds to the original gospel a Galilean appearance. Luke, however, who makes no reference at all to Galilean manifestations, is taken to prove that originally the one cycle knew nothing of the other. This theory falls, however, before the uniform tradition of appearances on the third day, which must have been in Jerusalem, and the very early testimony of Paul to an appearance to above five hundred brethren at once, which could not have been in Judea. It need not surprise us that there should have been two cycles of tradition, not however mutually exclusive, if Jesus did appear both in Jerusalem and in Galilee. The same kind of local interest which is supposed to explain the one-sidedness of the synoptic story of the public ministry would easily account for one line of tradition which reported Galilean appearances, and another which reported those in Jerusalem. Luke may have had access to information which furnished him only the Jerusalem story. John and Peter, however, must have known the wider facts. The very divergences and seeming contradictions of the gospels, troublesome as they are, indicate how completely certainty regarding the fact of the resurrection removed from the thought of the apostolic day nice carefulness concerning the testimony to individual manifestations of the risen Lord. Doubtless the first preaching rested, as in the case of Paul, on a simple "I have seen the Lord." When later the detailed testimony was wanted for written gospels, it had suffered the lot common to orally transmitted records, and divergences had sprung up which it is no longer possible for us to resolve. They do not, however, challenge the fact which lies behind all the varied testimony.

215. A general view of the events of that third day and those which followed can be constructed from our gospels and Paul. Early on the first day of the week certain women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, Joanna, and others, came to anoint the body of Jesus. On their arrival they found that the stone had been rolled back from the tomb. Mary Magdalene saw that the grave was empty and ran to tell Peter and John. The others saw also a vision of angels which said that Jesus was alive and would see his disciples in Galilee, and ran to report this to the disciples. Meanwhile Mary Magdalene returned, following Peter and John who ran to see the tomb, and found it empty as she had said. She lingered after they left, and Jesus appeared to her, she mistaking him at first for the gardener. She then went to tell the disciples that she had seen the Lord. These events evidently occurred in the early morning. The next incident reported is that of the walk of two disciples, not of the twelve, to Emmaus, and the appearance of Jesus to them. At first they did not recognize him, not even when he taught them out of the scriptures the necessity that the Messiah should die. He was made known when at evening he sat down with them to a familiar meal. Either before or after this event he had shown himself to Peter. This is the first manifestation reported by Paul. If Luke xxiv. 12 is genuine (see R.V. margin), he also tells that when the two again reached Jerusalem the apostles received them with the news that Peter had seen the Lord. That same evening Jesus appeared suddenly among the disciples in their well-guarded upper room. His coming was such that he had to convince the disciples that he was not simply a disembodied spirit. Luke says that he did this by bidding them handle him, and by eating part of a fish before them. According to John, Thomas was not with the others at this first meeting with the disciples. A week later, presumably in Jerusalem, Jesus again manifested himself to the little company, Thomas being with them, and dispelled the doubt of that disciple who loved too deeply to indulge a hope which might only disappoint. He had but to see in order to believe, and make supreme confession of his faith. The next appearance was probably that to the seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee, when Peter, who denied thrice, was thrice tested concerning his love for his Lord. Then apparently followed the meeting on the mountain reported in Matthew, which was probably the same as the appearance to the five hundred brethren; then, probably still in Galilee, Jesus appeared to his brother James, who from that time on was a leader among the disciples. The next manifestation of which record is preserved was the final one in Jerusalem, after which Jesus led his disciples out as far as Bethany and was separated from them, henceforth to be thought of by them as seated at the right hand of God.

216. This construction of the story as given in the New Testament does violence to the accounts in one particular. It holds that Matthew's report of the meeting of Jesus with the women on their way from the tomb on Easter morning is to be identified with his meeting with Mary Magdalene. This can be done only if it is supposed that in the transmission of the tradition the commission given the women by the angel (Mark xvi. 6f.) became blended with the message given to Mary by the Lord (John xx. 17), the result being virtually the same for the religious interest of the first Christians, while for the historic interest of our days it constitutes a discrepancy. The difficulty is less on this supposition than on any other. It is highly significant that the account of the most indubitable fact in the view of the early Christians is the most difficult portion of the gospels for the exact harmonist to deal with. This is not of serious moment for the historical student. It is rather a warning against theoretical ideas of inspiration.

217. The universal acknowledgment that the early Christians firmly believed in the resurrection of their Lord has made the origin of that firm conviction a question of primary importance. The simple facts as set forth in the New Testament serve abundantly to account for the faith of the early church, but they not only involve a large recognition of the miraculous, they also contain perplexities for those who do not stumble at the supernatural; hence there have been many attempts to find other solutions of the problem. Some of the explanations offered may be dismissed with a word: for instance, those which, in one form or other, renew the old charge found in the first gospel, that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, and then declared that he had risen; and those which assume that the death of Jesus was apparent only, that he fainted on the cross, and then the chill of the night air and of the sepulchre served to revive him, so that in the morning he was able to leave the tomb and appear to his disciples as one risen from the dead. This apparent-death theory involves Jesus in an ugly deception, while the theory that the disciples or any group of them removed the body of Jesus and then gave currency to the notion that he had risen, builds the greatest ethical and religious movement known to history on a lie. A slightly different explanation which was very early suggested was that the Jews themselves, or perhaps the gardener, had the body removed, and that when Mary found the tomb empty she let her faith conclude that his absence must be due to his resurrection.

218. This last explanation has in recent times been revived in connection with the so-called vision-hypothesis by Renan and Reville. Mary found the tomb empty, and being herself of a highly strung nervous nature—she had been cured by Jesus of seven devils—by thinking about the empty tomb she soon worked herself into an ecstasy in which her eyes seemed to behold what her heart desired to see. She communicated her vision to the others, and by a sort of nervous contagion, they, too, fell to seeing visions, and it is the report of these that we have in the gospels. The vision-hypothesis takes with some, Strauss for instance, a different form. These deny that the tomb was found empty at all, and regard this story as a contribution of the later legend-making spirit. They hold that the disciples fled from Jerusalem as soon as the death of Jesus was an assured fact, and not until after they found themselves amid the familiar scenes of Galilee, did their faith recover from the shock it had received in Jerusalem. In Galilee the experiences of their life with Jesus were lived over again, and the old confidence in him as Messiah revived. Thus thinking about the Lord, their hearts would say, "He cannot have died," and after a while their faith rose to the conviction which declared, "He is not dead;" then they passed into an ecstatic mood and visions followed which are the germ out of which the gospel stories have grown.

219. These different forms of the vision-hypothesis have been subjected to most searching criticism by Keim, who is all the more severe because his own thought has so much that is akin to them. There are two objections which refute the hypothesis. The first is that the uniform tradition which connects the resurrection and the first appearances with the "third day" after the crucifixion leaves far too short a time for the recovery of faith and the growth of ecstatic feeling which are requisite for these visions, even supposing that the disciples' faith had such recuperative powers. The second is that once such an ecstatic mood was acquired it would be according to experience in analogous cases for the visions to continue, if not to increase, as the thought of the risen Lord grew more clear and familiar; yet the tradition is uniform that the appearances of the risen Christ ceased after, at most, a few weeks. The only later one was that which led to the conversion of Paul; and though Paul was a man somewhat given to ecstatic experiences (see II. Cor. xii.), he carefully distinguishes in his own thought his seeing of the Lord and his heavenly visions. In a word, the disciples of Jesus never showed a more healthy, normal life than that which gave them strength to found a church of believers in the resurrection in the face of persecution and scorn.

220. Keim seeks to avoid the difficulties which his own acute criticism disclosed in the ordinary vision-theory, by another which rejects the gospel stories as legendary, yet frankly acknowledges that the faith of the apostles in the resurrection was based on a miracle. Their certainty was so unshakable, so uniform, so abiding, that it can be accounted for only by acknowledging that they did actually see the Lord. This seeing, however, was not with the eyes of sense, but with the spiritual vision, which properly perceives what pertains to the spirit world into which the glorified Lord had withdrawn when he died. In his spiritual estate he manifested himself to his disciples, by a series of divinely caused and therefore essentially objective visions, in which he proved to them abundantly that he was alive, was victor over death, and had been exalted by God to his right hand. This theory is not in itself offensive to faith. It concedes that the belief of the disciples rested on actual disclosures of himself to them by the glorified Lord. The difficulty with the theory is that it relegates the empty tomb to the limbo of legend, though it is a feature of the tradition which is found in all the gospels and clearly implied in Paul (I. Cor. xv. 4; compare Rom. vi. 4); it also fails to show how this glorified Christ came to be thought of by the disciples as risen, rather than simply glorified in spirit. This criticism brings us back to the necessity of recognizing a resurrection which was in some real sense corporeal, difficult as that conception is for us. The gospels assert this with great simplicity and delicate reserve. They represent Jesus as returning to his disciples with a body which was superior to the limitations which hedge our lives about. It may be well described by Paul's words, "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." Yet the records indicate that when he willed Jesus could offer himself to the perception of other senses than sight and hearing—"handle me and see" is not an invitation that we expect from a spiritual presence. If, however, we have to confess an unsolved mystery here, and still more in the record of his eating in the presence of the disciples (Luke xxiv. 41-43), it is permitted us to own that our knowledge of the possible conditions of the fully perfected life are not such as to warrant great dogmatism in criticising the account. The empty tomb, the objective presence of the risen Jesus, the renewed faith of his followers, and their new power are established data for our thought. With these, many of the details may be left in mystery, because we have not yet light sufficient to reveal to us all that we should like to know.

221. The ascension of the risen Christ to his Father is the presupposition of all the New Testament teaching. The Acts, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse join in the representation that he is now at the right hand of God. In fact it may be said that such a view is involved in the doctrine of the resurrection, for the very idea of that victory was that death had no more dominion over him. It is a fact, however, that none of our gospels in their correct text (see Luke xxiv. 51, R.V. margin) tell of the ascension. Luke clearly implies it, and John says that Jesus told Mary to tell the disciples that he was about to ascend to his Father and their Father. In Luke's later book, however (Acts i. 1-11), he gives a full account of a last meeting of Jesus with the disciples, and of his ascension to heaven before their eyes. This withdrawal in the cloud must be understood as an acted parable; for, in reality, there is no reason for thinking that the clouds which hung over Olivet that day were any nearer God's presence than the ground on which the disciples stood. For them, however, such a disappearance would signify vividly the cessation of their earthly intercourse with their Lord, and his return to his home with the Father. The word of Jesus to Mary (John xx. 17) may fairly be interpreted to mean that Jesus had ascended to the Father on the day of the resurrection, and that each of his subsequent manifestations of himself were like that which later he granted to Paul near Damascus. In fact it is easier to view the matter in this way than to conceive of Jesus as sojourning in some hidden place for forty days after his resurrection. What the disciples witnessed ten days before Pentecost was a withdrawal similar to those which had separated him from them frequently during the recent weeks, only now set before their eyes in such a way as to tell them that these manifestations had reached an end; they must henceforth wait for the other representative of God and Christ, the Spirit, given to them at Pentecost.

222. The faith with which the disciples waited for the promised spirit was a very different faith from that which Peter confessed for his fellows at Caesarea Philippi. It had the same supreme attachment to a personal friend who had proved to be God's Anointed; the same readiness to let him lead whithersoever he would; the same firm expectation of a restitution of all things, in which God should set up his kingdom visibly, with Jesus as the King of men. Now, however, their trust was much fuller than before, and they looked for a still more glorious kingdom when their friend and Lord should come from heaven to assume his reign. They expected Christ to return soon in glory, yet his death and victory made them ready to endure any persecution for him, certain that, like the sufferings which he endured, it would lead to victory. These disciples had no idea that in preaching a religion of personal attachment to their Master, in filling all men's thoughts with his name, in building all hope on his return, and guiding all life by his teaching and spirit, they were cutting their moorings from the religion of their fathers. They remained loyal to the law, they were constant in the worship; but they had poured new wine into the bottles, and in time it proved the inadequacy of the old forms and revolutionized the world's religious life.



Part III

The Minister



I

The Friend of Men



223. In nothing does the contrast between Jesus and John the Baptist appear more clearly than in their attitude towards common social life. John had his training and did his work apart from the homes of men. The wilderness was his chosen and fit scene of labor. From this solitude he sent forth his summons and warning to his people. They who sought him for fuller teaching went after him and found him where he was. They then returned to their homes and their work, leaving the prophet with his few disciples in their seclusion. With Jesus it was otherwise. His first act, after attaching to himself a few followers, was to go into Galilee to the town of Cana, and there with them to partake in the festivities of a wedding. While it is true that most of his teaching was by the wayside, among the hills, or by the sea, it is still a surprise to discover how often his ministry found its occasion as he was sitting at table in the house of some friend, real or feigned. The genuine friendships of Jesus as they appear in the gospels are among the most characteristic features of his life—witness the home at Bethany, the women who followed him even to the cross, and ministered to him of their substance, and the "beloved disciple." Jesus calls attention to this contrast between himself and John, reminding the people how some of the scornful pointed the finger at himself as "a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." He received his training as a carpenter while John was in his wilderness solitude. Men who would probably have stood with admiration before John had he visited their synagogue, found Jesus too much one of themselves, and would none of him as a prophet (Mark vi. 2, 3).

224. A like contrast sets Jesus apart from the scribes of his day. These were revered by the people, in part perhaps because they held the common folk in such contempt. Their attitude was frank—"this multitude which knoweth not the law is accursed" (John vii. 49). The popular enthusiasm for Jesus filled them with scorn, until it began to give them alarm. They were glad to be reverenced by the people, to interpret the law for them "binding heavy burdens and grievous to be borne;" but showed little genuine interest in them. Jesus, on the other hand, not only had the reverence of the multitudes, but welcomed them. First his words and his works drew them, then he himself enchained their hearts. Outcasts, rich and poor, crowded into his company, and found him not only a teacher, a prophet of righteousness rebuking their sins and calling to repentance, but a friend, who was not ashamed to be seen in their homes, to have them among his closest attendants, and to be known as their champion. It was when such as these were pressing upon him to hear him that Jesus replied to the criticism of the scribes in the three parables of recovered treasure which stand among the rarest gems of the Master's teaching (Luke xv.).

225. One class only in the community failed of his sympathy,—the self-righteous hypocrites, who thought that godliness consisted in scrupulous regard for pious ceremonies, and that zeal was most laudable when directed to the removal of motes from their brothers' eyes. For these Jesus had words of rebuke and burning scorn. It has been common with some to emphasize his friendship for the poor as if he chose them for their poverty, and the unlettered for their ignorance. Yet Jesus had no faster friends than the women who followed from Galilee and ministered to him of their substance, and the two sanhedrists, Joseph whose new tomb received his body, and Nicodemus whose liberality provided the spices which embalmed him; for these, and not the Galilean fishermen, were faithful to the last at the cross and at the grave. In no home did Jesus find a fuller or more welcome friendship than in Bethany, where all that is told us of its conditions suggests the opposite of poverty. The rich young ruler, who showed his too great devotion to his possessions, would hardly have sought out Jesus with his question, if he was known as the champion of poverty as in itself essential to godliness. The demand made of him surprised him, and was suited to his special case. Jesus saw clearly the difficulties which wealth puts in the way of faith, but he recognized the power of God to overcome them, and when Zaccheus turned disciple, the demand for complete surrender of possessions was not repeated. On the contrary Jesus taught his disciples that even "the unrighteous mammon" should be used to win friends (Luke xvi. 9), so ministering unto some of "the least of these my brethren" (Matt. xxv. 40). The beatitude in Luke's report of the sermon on the mount (Luke vi. 20) was not for the poor as poor simply, but for those poor folk lightly esteemed who had spiritual sense enough to follow Jesus, while the well-to-do as a class were content with the "consolation" already in hand. Jesus' interest was in character, wherever it was manifest, whether in the repentance of a chief of the publicans, or in the widow woman's gift of "all her living;" whether it appeared in the hunger for truth shown by Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, or in the woman that was a sinner who washed his feet with her tears. He was the great revealer of the worth of simple humanity, in man, woman, or child. Our world has never seen another who so surely penetrated all masks or disguising circumstances and found the man himself, and having found him loved him.

226. This sympathy for simple manhood was manifested in a genuine interest in the common life of men in business, pleasure, or trouble. It is significant that the first exercise of his miraculous power should have been to relieve the embarrassment of his host at a wedding feast. Doubtless we are to understand that the miracle had a deeper purpose than simply supplying the needed wine (John ii. 11); but the significant thing is that Jesus should choose to manifest his glory in this way. It shows a genuine appreciation of social life quite impossible to an ascetic like the Baptist. The same appears in the way Jesus allowed his publican apostle to introduce him to his former associates, to the great scandal of the Pharisees; for a feast at which Jesus and a number of publicans were the chief guests accorded not with religion as they understood it. Jesus, however, seems to have found it a welcome opportunity to seek some of his lost sheep. The illustrations which he used in his teaching were often his best introduction to the common heart, for they were drawn from the occupations of the people who came to listen; while the aid Jesus gave to his disciples in their fishing showed not only his power, but also his respect for their work, a respect further proved when he called them to be fishers of men.

227. Beyond this interest in life's joy and its occupations was that unfailing sympathy with its troubles which drew the multitudes to him. He was far more than a healer; he studied to rid the people of the idea that he was a mere miracle-monger. He healed them because he loved them, and he asked of those who sought his help that they too should feel the personal relation into which his power had brought them. This seems to be in part the significance of his uniform demand for faith. Doubtless Mary, out of whom he had cast seven devils, and Simon the leper, who seems to have experienced his power to heal, are only single instances of many who found in him far more than at first they sought. No further record remains of the paralytic who carried off his bed, but left the burden of his sins behind, nor of the woman who loved much because she had been forgiven much, nor of the Samaritan whose life he uncovered that he might be able to give her the living water. Some who had his help for body or heart may have gone away forgetful, after the fashion of men, but in the company of those who were bold to bear his name after his resurrection there must have been many who could not forget.

228. Jesus' interest in common life was genuine, and he entered into it with his heart. The incident of the anointing of his feet as he sat a guest in a Pharisee's house shows that he was keenly sensitive to the treatment he received at the hands of men. He had nothing to say of the slights his host had shown him, until that host began mentally to criticise the woman who was ministering to him in her love and penitence. Then with quiet dignity Jesus mentioned the several omissions of courtesy which he had noticed since he came in, contrasting the woman's attention with Simon's neglect (Luke vii. 36-50). One of the saddest things about Gethsemane was Jesus' vain pleading with his disciples for sympathy in his awful hour. They were too much dazed with awe and fear to lend him their hearts' support. He recognized indeed that it was only a weakness of the flesh; yet he craved their friendship's help, and repeatedly asked them to watch with him, for his soul was exceeding sorrowful. In contrast with this disappointment stands the joy with which Jesus heard from Peter the confession which proved that the falling off of popular enthusiasm had not shaken the loyalty of his chosen companions,—"Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood have not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. xvi. 17). There is the sorrow of loneliness as well as rebuke in his complaint, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I bear with you?" (Mark ix. 19), and the lamentation over Jerusalem comes from a longing heart (Luke xiii. 34).

229. The independence of human sympathy which Jesus often showed is all the more glorious for the evidence the gospels give of his longing for it. When he put the question to the twelve, "Would ye also go away?" (John vi. 67), there is no hint in his manner that their defection with the rest would turn him at all from faithfully fulfilling the task appointed to him by his Father. In fact only now and then did he allow his own hunger to appear. Ordinarily he showed himself as the friend longing to help, but not seeking ministry from others; he rather sought to win his disciples to unselfishness by showing as well as saying that he came not to be ministered unto but to minister. He washed the feet of his disciples to rebuke their petty jealousies, but we have no hint that he showed that he felt personal neglect. His own heart was full of "sorrow even unto death," but his word was, "Let not your heart be troubled;" he asked in vain for the sympathy of his nearest friends in Gethsemane, yet when the band came to arrest him he pleaded, "Let these, the disciples, go their way."



II

The Teacher with Authority



230. To his contemporaries Jesus was primarily a teacher. The name by which he is oftenest named in the gospels is Teacher,—translated Master in the English versions and the equivalent of Rabbi in the language used by Jesus (John i. 38). People thought of him as a rabbi approved of God by his power to work miracles (John iii. 2), but it was not the miracles that most impressed them. The popular comment was, "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. vii. 29). Two leading characteristics of the scribes were their pride of learning, and their bondage to tradition. In fact the learning of which they were proud was knowledge of the body of tradition on whose sanctity they insisted; their teaching was scholastic and pedantic, an endless citing of precedents and discussion of trifles. To all this Jesus presented a refreshing contrast. In commending truth to the people, he was content with a simple "verily," and in defining duty he rested on his unsupported "I say unto you," even when his dictum stood opposed to that which had been said to them of old time.

231. In this freedom from the bondage of tradition Jesus was not alone. John the Baptist's message had been as simple and unsupported by appeal to the elders. Jesus and John both revived the method of the older prophets, and it is in large measure due to this that the people distinguished them clearly from their ordinary teachers, and held them both to be prophets. One thing involved in this authoritative method was a frank appeal to the conscience of men. So completely had the scribes substituted memory of tradition for appeal to the simple sense of right, that they were utterly dazed when Jesus undertook to settle questions of Sabbath observance and ceremonial cleanliness by asking his hearers to use their religious common sense, and consider whether a man is not much better than a sheep, or whether a man is not defiled rather by what comes out of his mouth than by what enters into it (Matt. xii. 12; Mark vii. 15). Jesus was for his generation the great discoverer of the conscience, and for all time the champion of its dignity against finespun theory and traditional practice. All his teaching has this quality in greater or less degree. It appears when by means of the parable of the Good Samaritan he makes the lawyer answer his own question (Luke x. 25-37), when he bids the multitude in Jerusalem "judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John vii. 24), when he asks his inquisitors in the temple whose image and superscription the coin they used in common business bears (Mark xii. 16). His whole work in Galilee was proof of his confidence that in earnest souls the conscience would be his ally, and that he could impress himself on them far more indelibly than any sign from heaven could enforce his claim.

232. Jesus was not only independent of the traditions of the scribes, he was also very free at times with the letter of the Old Testament. When by a word he "made all meats clean" (Mark vii. 19), he set himself against the permanent validity of the Levitical ritual. When the Pharisees pleaded Moses for their authority in the matter of divorce, Jesus referred them back of Moses to the original constitution of mankind (Matt. xix. 3-9). His general attitude to the Sabbath was not only opposed to the traditions of the scribes, it also disregarded the Old Testament conception of the Sabbath as an institution. Yet Jesus took pains to declare that he came not to set aside the old but to fulfil it (Matt. v. 17). The contrasts which he draws between things said to them of old and his new teachings (Matt. v. 21-48) look at first much like a doing away of the old. Jesus did not so conceive them. He rather thought of them as fresh statements of the idea which underlay the old; they fulfilled the old by realizing more fully that which it had set before an earlier generation. He was the most radical teacher the men of his day could conceive, but his work was clearing rubbish away from the roots of venerable truth that it might bear fruit, rather than rooting up the old to put something else in its place.

233. The Old Testament was for Jesus a holy book. His mind was filled with its stories and its language. In the teachings which have been preserved for us he has made use of writings from all parts of the Jewish scriptures—Law, Prophets, and Psalms. The Old Testament furnished him the weapons for his own soul's struggle with temptation (Matt. iv. 4, 7, 10), it gave him arguments for use against his opponents (Mark xii. 24-27; ii. 25-27), and it was for him an inexhaustible storehouse of illustration in his teaching. When inquirers sought the way of life he pointed them to the scriptures (Mark x. 19; see also John v. 39), and declared that the rising of one from the dead would not avail for the warning of those who were unmoved by Moses and the prophets (Luke xvi. 31). When Jesus' personal attitude to the Old Testament is considered it is noticeable that while his quotations and allusions cover a wide range, and show very general familiarity with the whole book, there appears a decided predominance of Deuteronomy, the last part of Isaiah, and the Psalms. It is not difficult to see that these books are closer in spirit to his own thought than much else in the old writings; his use of the scripture shows that some parts appealed to him more than others.

234. Jesus as a teacher was popular and practical rather than systematic and theoretical. The freshness of his ideas is proof that he was not lacking in thorough and orderly thinking, for his complete departure from current conceptions of the kingdom of God indicates perfect mastery of ethical and theological truth. It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that so much of his profoundest teaching seems to have been almost accidental. The most formal discourse preserved to us is the sermon on the mount, in which human conduct is regulated by the thought of God as Father and Searcher of hearts. For the rest the great ideas of Jesus have utterance in response to specific conditions presented to him in his ministry. His most radical sayings concerning the Sabbath followed a criticism of his disciples for plucking ears of grain as they passed through the fields on the Sabbath day (Mark ii. 23-28); his authority to forgive sins was announced when a paralytic was brought to him for healing (Mark ii. 1-12); so far as the gospels indicate, we should have missed Jesus' clearest statement of the significance of his own death but for the ambitious request of James and John (Mark x. 35-45). Examples of the occasional character of his teaching might be greatly multiplied. He did not seek to be the founder of a school; important as his teachings were, they take a place in his work second to his personal influence on his followers. He desired to win disciples whose faith in him would withstand all shocks, rather than to train experts who would pass on his ideas to others. His disciples did become experts, for we owe to them the vivid presentation we have of the exalted and unique teaching of their Master; but they were thus skilful because they surrendered themselves to his personal mastery, and learned to know the springs of his own life and thought.

235. Nothing in the teaching of Jesus is more remarkable than his confidence that men who believed in him would adequately represent him and his message to the world. The parable of the Leaven seems to have set forth his own method. We owe our gospels to no injunction given by him to write down what he said and did. He impressed himself on his followers, filled them with a love to himself which made them sensitive to his ideas as a photographic plate is to light, teaching them his truth in forms that did not at first show any effect on their thought, but were developed into strength and clearness by the experiences of the passing years. Christian ethics and theology are far more than an orderly presentation of the teaching of Jesus; in so far as they are purely Christian they are the systematic setting forth of truth involved, though not expressed, in what he said and did in his ministry among men. His ideas were radical and thoroughly revolutionary. His method, however, had in it all the patience of God's working in nature, and the hidden noiseless power of an evolution is its characteristic. Hence it was that he chose to teach some things exclusively in figure. So great and unfamiliar a truth as the gradual development of God's kingdom was unwelcome to the thought of his time. He made it, therefore, the theme of many of his parables; and although the disciples did not understand what he meant, the picture remained with them, and in after years they grew up to his idea.

236. Jesus' use of illustration is one of the most marked features of his teaching. In one sense this simply proves him to be a genuine Oriental, for to contemplate and present abstract truths in concrete form is characteristic of the Semitic mind. In the case of Jesus, however, it proves more: the variety and homeliness of his illustrations show how completely conversant he was alike with common life and with spiritual truth. There is a freedom and ease about his use of figurative language which suggests, as nothing else could, his own clear certainty concerning the things of which he spoke. The fact, too, that his mind dealt so naturally with the highest thoughts has made his illustrations unique for profound truth and simple beauty. Nearly the whole range of figurative speech is represented in his recorded words, including forms like irony and hyperbole, often held to be unnatural to such serious speech as his.

237. Another figure has become almost identified with the name of Jesus,—such abundant and incomparable use did he make of it. Parable was, however, no invention of his, for the rabbis of his own and later times, as well as the sages and prophets who went before them, made use of it. As distinguished from other forms of illustration, the parable is a picture true to actual human life, used to enforce a religious truth. The picture may be drawn in detail, as in the story of the Lost Son (Luke xv. 11-32), or it may be the concisest narration possible, as in the parable of the Leaven (Matt. xiii. 33); but it always retains its character as a narrative true to human experience. It is this that gives parable the peculiar value it has for religious teaching, since it brings unfamiliar truth close home to every-day life. Like all the illustrations used by Jesus, the parable was ordinarily chosen as a means of making clear the spiritual truth which he was presenting. Illustration never finds place as mere ornament in his addresses. His parables, however, were sometimes used to baffle the unteachable and critical. Such was the case on the occasion in Jesus' life when attention is first called in the gospels to this mode of teaching (Mark iv. 1-34). The parable of the Sower would mean little to hearers who held the crude and material ideas of the kingdom which prevailed among Jesus' contemporaries. It was used as an invitation to consider a great truth, and for teachable disciples was full of suggestion and meaning; while for the critical curiosity of unfriendly hearers it was only a pointless story,—a means adopted by Jesus to save his pearls from being trampled under foot, and perhaps also to prevent too early a decision against him on the part of his opponents.

238. In nothing is Jesus' ease in handling deepest truth more apparent than in his use of irony and hyperbole in his illustrations. In his reference to the Pharisees as "ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance" (Luke xv. 7), and in his question, "Many good works have I shewed you from the Father, for which of these works do you stone me?" (John x. 32), the irony is plain, but not any plainer than the rhetorical exaggeration of his accusation against the scribes, "You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel" (Matt, xxiii. 24), or his declaration that "it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Mark x. 25), or his charge, "If a man cometh unto me and hateth not his own father and mother ... he cannot be my disciple" (Luke xiv. 26). The force of these statements is in their hyperbole. Only to an interpretation which regards the letter above the spirit can they cause difficulty. In so far as they remove Jesus utterly from the pedantic carefulness for words which marked the scribes they are among the rare treasures of his teachings. The simple spirit will not busy itself about finding something that may be called a needle's eye through which a camel can pass by squeezing, nor will it seek a camel which could conceivably be swallowed, nor will it stumble at a seeming command to hate those for whom God's law, as emphasized indeed by Jesus (Mark vii. 6-13), demands peculiar love and honor. The childlike spirit which is heir of God's kingdom readily understands this warning against the snare of riches, this rebuke of the hypocritical life, and this demand for a love for the Master which shall take the first place in the heart.

239. Jesus sometimes used object lessons as well as illustrations, and for the same purpose,—to make his thought transparently clear to his hearers. The demand for a childlike faith in order to enter the kingdom of God was enforced by the presence of a little child whom Jesus set in the midst of the circle to whom he was talking (Mark ix. 35-37). The unworthy ambitions of the disciples were rebuked by Jesus' taking himself the menial place and washing their feet (John xiii. 1-15).

240. The simplicity and homeliness of Jesus' teaching are not more remarkable than the alertness of mind which he showed on all occasions. The comment of the fourth gospel, "he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man, for he himself knew what was in man" (ii. 25), doubtless refers to his supernatural insight, but it also tells of his quick perception of what was involved in each situation in which he found himself. Whether it was Nicodemus coming to him by night, or the lawyer asking, "Who is my neighbor?" or a dissatisfied heir demanding that his brother divide the inheritance with him, or a group of Pharisees seeking to undermine his power by attributing his cures to the devil, or trying to entrap him by a question about tribute, Jesus was never caught unawares. His absorption in heavenly truth was not accompanied by any blindness to earthly facts. He knew what the men of his day were thinking about, what they hoped for, to what follies they gave their hearts, and what sins hid God from them. He was eminently a man of the people, thoroughly acquainted with all that interested his fellows, and in the most natural, human way. Whatever of the supernatural there was in his knowledge did not make it unnatural. As he was socially at ease with the best and most cultivated of his day, so he was intellectually the master of every situation. This appears nowhere more strikingly than in his dealing with his pharisaic critics. When they were shocked by his forgiveness of sins, or offended by his indifference to the Sabbath tradition, or goaded into blasphemy by his growing influence over the people, or troubled by his disciples' disregard of the traditional washings, or when later they conspired to entrap him in his speech,—from first to last he was so manifestly superior to his opponents that they withdrew discomfited, until at length they in madness killed, without reason, him against whom they could find no adequate charge. His lack of "learning" (John vii. 15) was simply his innocence of rabbinic training; he had no diploma from their schools. In keenness of argument, however, and invincibleness of reasoning, as well as in the clearness of his insight, he was ever their unapproachable superior. His reply to the charge of league with Beelzebub is as merciless an exposure of feeble malice as can be found in human literature. He was as worthy to be Master of his disciples' thinking as he was to be Lord of their hearts.

241. In the teaching of Jesus two topics have the leading place,—the Kingdom of God, and Himself. His thought about himself calls for separate consideration, but it may be remarked here that as his ministry progressed he spoke with increasing frankness about his own claims. It became more and more apparent that he sought to be Lord rather than Teacher simply, and to impress men with himself rather than with his ideas. Yet his ideas were constantly urged on his disciples, and they were summed up in his conception of the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven. This was the topic, directly or indirectly, of far the greater part of his teaching. The phrase was as familiar to his contemporaries as it is common in his words; but his understanding of it was radically different from theirs. He and they took it to mean the realization on earth of heavenly conditions (kingdom of heaven), or of God's actual sovereignty over the world (kingdom of God); but of the God whose will was thus to be realized they conceived quite differently. Strictly speaking there is nothing novel in the idea of God as Father which abounds in the teaching of Jesus. He never offers it as novel, but takes it for granted that his hearers are familiar with the name. It appears in some earlier writers both in and out of the Old Testament. Yet no one of them uses it as constantly, as naturally, and as confidently as did Jesus. With him it was the simple equivalent of his idea of God, and it was central for his personal religious life as well as for his teaching. "My Father" always lies back of references in his teaching to "your Father." This is the key to what is novel in Jesus' idea of the kingdom of God. His contemporaries thought of God as the covenant king of Israel who would in his own time make good his promises, rid his people of their foes, set them on high among the nations, establish his law in their hearts, and rule over them as their king. The whole conception, while in a real sense religious, was concerned more with the nation than with individuals, and looked rather for temporal blessings than for spiritual good. With Jesus the kingdom is the realization of God's fatherly sway over the hearts of his children. It begins when men come to own God as their Father, and seek to do his will for the love they bear him. It shows development towards its full manifestation when men as children of God look on each other as brothers, and govern conduct by love which will no more limit itself to friends than God shuts off his sunlight from sinners. From this love to God and men it will grow into a new order of things in which God's will shall be done as it is in heaven, even as from the little leaven the whole lump is leavened. Jesus did not set aside the idea of a judgment, but while his fellows commonly made it the inauguration, he made it the consummation of the kingdom; they thought of it as the day of confusion for apostates and Gentiles, he taught that it would be the day of condemnation of all unbrotherliness (Matt. xxv. 31-46). This central idea—a new order of life in which men have come to love and obey God as their Father, and to love and live for men as their brothers—attaches to itself naturally all the various phases of the teaching of Jesus, including his emphasis on himself; for he made that emphasis in order that, as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, he might lead men unto the Father.



III

Jesus' Knowledge of Truth



242. The note of authority in the teaching of Jesus is evidence of his own clear knowledge of the things of which he spoke. As if by swift intuition, his mind penetrated to the heart of things. In the scriptures he saw the underlying truth which should stand till heaven and earth shall pass (Matt. v. 18); in the ceremonies of his people's religion he saw so clearly the spiritual significance that he did not hesitate to sacrifice the passing form (Mark vii. 14-23); such a theological development as the pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection he unhesitatingly adopted because he saw that it was based on the ultimate significance of the soul's fellowship with God (Mark xiii. 24-27); he reduced religion and ethics to simplicity by summing up all commandments in one,—Thou shalt love (Matt. xxii. 37-40); and at the same time insisted as no other prophet had done on the finality of conduct and the necessity of obedience (Matt. vii. 21-27). His penetration to the heart of an idea was nowhere more clear than in his doctrine of the kingdom of God as realized in the filial soul, and as involving a judgment which should take cognizance only of brotherliness of conduct. It would not be difficult to show that all these different aspects of his teaching grew naturally out of his knowledge of God as his Father and the Father of all men; they were the fruit, therefore, of personal certainty of ultimate and all-dominating truth.

243. If the knowledge of Jesus had been shown only in matters of spiritual truth, it would still have marked him as one apart from ordinary men. There were other directions, however, in which he surpassed the common mind. The fourth gospel declares that "he knew what was in man" (ii. 25), and all the evangelists give evidence of such knowledge. Not only the designation of Judas as the traitor, and of Peter as the one who should deny him, before their weakness and sin had shown themselves, but also Jesus' quick reading of the heart of the paralytic who was brought to him for healing, and of the woman who washed his feet with her tears (Mark ii. 5; Luke vii. 47), and his knowledge of the character of Simon and Nathanael (John i. 42, 47,) as well as his sure perception of the intent of the various questioners whom he met, indicate that he had powers of insight unshared by his fellow men.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse